ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00016027
An Assistant Lecturer
An Institute of Technology
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 06/06/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Andrew Heavey
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969, following the referral of the dispute to me by the Director General, I inquired into the dispute and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the dispute.
The worker has been employed by the employer since 2004 as an Assistant Lecturer. The current dispute concerns a number of grievances and complaints that the worker contends have not been adequately addressed by the employer.
Summary of Worker’s Case:
The worker contends that she has been subjected to Bullying and Harassment by four colleagues over a prolonged period of time. The worker stated that her complaints of Bullying and Harassment that she submitted in November 2016 were not investigated in line with the provisions of the Institute’s Dignity at Work Policy on the basis that they were deemed to be interpersonal conflicts by the HR Manager. The worker stated that she was then transferred to a different School within the Institute as a result of having made the complaints. The worker contends that her transfer amounts to victimisation and, as a result of how she has been treated by others, she has been removed from her established post within the Institute.
The worker also raised a number of other grievances and complaints in relation to her employment and the failure of the employer to address the issues she had raised or to adequately engage in the grievance process.
Summary of Employer’s Case:
The employer contends that there is no merit in the worker’s complaint, and it should be dismissed.
The employer stated that the worker claims to have been subject to Bullying and Harassment by four colleagues. The employer contends that the worker was advised that the issues raised by her did not meet the definition of Bullying and Harassment and that the grievance procedure was the appropriate mechanism for processing such issues. The employer stated that, as there were interpersonal difficulties in the workplace between the worker and her colleagues, a mediation process was offered which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The employer stated that the worker did not raise any further issues in relation to the complaints of Bullying and Harassment but did raise issues in relation to timetabling at the commencement of the 2017/18 academic year. The employer stated that it was clarified to the worker upon receipt of her referral to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in July 2018 that she had not invoked the grievance procedures in relation to the issues raised by her. The employer confirmed that a previous adjudication hearing was postponed in order for the worker to utilise internal grievance procedures. The employer confirmed that following receipt of a grievance in November 2018, a grievance meeting was arranged and held on 20th February 2019. The employer stated that despite its repeated attempts to assist the worker in her difficulties and address her grievances, she was dissatisfied with management’s efforts and indicated her desire to have the matter heard by the WRC at adjudication.
The employer contends that it acted reasonably at all times and provided every possible support to the worker during her employment. In an effort to alleviate the interpersonal difficulties the worker was experiencing, the employer supported her by allocating her working hours in an alternative School within the Institute which it considered to be the best course of action in the circumstances.
Findings and Conclusions:
In relation to this complaint I find as follows:
The worker is of the view that she was subject to Bullying and Harassment in the workplace by a number of individuals over a prolonged period of time. The worker made a formal complaint to Management in November 2016. Management for its part decided that the incidents complained of were in fact interpersonal conflicts and did not meet the definition of Bullying and Harassment. While Management contends that the worker subsequently invoked the grievance procedure on other issues, I find that the worker was entitled to have her complaint(s) of November 2016 investigated in line with the provisions of the Dignity at Work Policy.
I note the employer’s assertion at the adjudication hearing that the Dignity at Work Policy provides that complaints may not be investigated if the issues complained of are classified as interpersonal conflicts. Having reviewed the Policy in question, Stage 2.4 of the Policy provides that “all complaints will be investigated with minimum delay.” On this occasion there was no investigation of the complaints submitted under the Dignity at Work Policy.
At the adjudication hearing, the worker sought a re-instatement of her teaching hours in her previous School within the Institute, a written apology and the re-instatement of her good name. The employer stated that the worker has been in her current role for two years and there would be little point in returning her to her previous role. The employer stated that while it had made every effort to improve relationships at the institute it could not provide an apology to the worker in relation to the alleged behaviour of others. In relation to the worker’s good name the employer stated that it was unaware of anything being said to or about the worker that would have damaged her reputation.
In correspondence submitted to the WRC after the adjudication hearing had concluded, the worker sought a full investigation into all of the complaints that she had raised in relation to her colleagues and in relation to Management’s failure to address her initial complaints made under the Dignity at Work Policy. The worker also sought an investigation into matters relating to complaints made against her and how these complaints were dealt with and the fact that she was not provided with an opportunity to consider and respond to the complaints in question. The worker also sought an investigation into management’s failure to advise her of the purported complaint assessment agreement reached between Management and the Trade Union. To ensure transparency and fairness the worker is also seeking the appointment of a suitably qualified independent third party to conduct a timely investigation into her complaints.
Having considered the submissions of both parties, it is clear that there is a significant number of issues affecting the worker’s professional life, health and wellbeing. In my view, the worker requires closure to these issues. In all of the circumstances of this dispute, I accept the need for the appointment of an independent third party to conduct an investigation on all of the issues raised.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I recommend the appointment of an agreed independent consultant to conduct an investigation into all issues that have been raised by the worker to date. The terms of reference should be agreed between both parties prior to the commencement of the investigation process and should not be changed or expanded without the agreement of both sides. I recommend that the process be completed within three months. The costs of the external consultant should be met by the employer.
Dated: 27th September 2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Andrew Heavey
Dignity at Work, Grievance procedures, Bullying and Harassment